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Waterfall Debate


Always on
Hi All-

It's been a while but I'm finally back from my winter photography hiatus. I have some trips planned for the spring/summer and looking forward to shooting some summits and waterfalls.

Last night I was talking with my wife (my toughest critic) and she explained how she absolutely can not stand the slow-shutter waterfall exposures. (So yes- she doesn't care for most of my waterfall photos...)

She said the effect makes the scene look unrealistic. How a soft wisp of water doesn't equal a powerful scene in "real life". After some debating, I think she might be on to something.

Now, of course, the effect is painterly and pleasing to some, but what do you all think? Are you sick of seeing the veil of water? Do you lean towards a more natural scene?

Personally, I am going to try harder to blend the two for more detail in the water.

Hope you're all doing well!

Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk


Always on
I tend to like seeing a range of shutter speeds used, some shots showing all the droplets frozen, others around 0.1 second with significant blur, and the odd one at multiple seconds/minutes with just cotton wool.
Which works best varies from subject to subject, but would probably often be a little slower than I can handhold... I'm sure if your wife saw a collection of my waterfall efforts (not something I get to shoot often) she'd rapidly start appreciate your more.

FWIW I don't think it's possible for a still image to match the 'natural view' we see which is not a still frame.


Looking for a cause.
I'm a fan of nice silky waterfalls, the fast shutter speed type that freezes the water doesn't look natural in my eyes as that's not how we see it.



Ol' Sparky
Honorary Life Member
The guy who taught me the basics of photography, over 30 years now said to me once "The hardest two things to capture naturally are people... And water."

Just don't break your head with it and take what feels right at the time.


Always on
Premium Member
If you are intending to capture something as "real" as possible, then any milky water shot or, for that matter, just about any night shot is unreal. That's a problem for photojournalists. I just want to create nice scenes that I enjoy capturing, processing, printing, and displaying.

Regarding the water scenes, I prefer to see some motion in the water such as spray or churning. I don't mine some milky-ness, beyond that it's not a waterfall.


Always on
All great replies. As with most things, I've found the sweet spot for me is somewhere right in the middle. When I go out this Spring, I'll be sure to take better care with my shutter speed and experiment more with exposure blending.

Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk


Always on
Premium Member
Done both but must admit to not liking wispy, as Mike says " motion in the water such as spray or churning "


Always on
I'm guessing that much depends on the waterfall - one I took more recently was a thin, long drop and looked like a running tap at the top. The Victoria Falls are huge and, to me, much better taken on a faster shutter speed, say 1/60 or 1/250 sec because it helps project the enormous volume of water.

Ramble Vision

Mountain Climber
Super Moderator
before I got into photography a didn't like it when rivers and water falls were smooth and 'milky'. then when I got into photography I found i liked the effect and now there's not many static water shots that i like. So I think there is a certain amount of appreciating the craft as another photographer. I think the blurred effect conveys the movement better but there are times where static is better, like crashing waves shows the power when its frozen, and the shot that Pete did of Yosemite falls with more texture showing was spot on as really conveyed the power of the falls. I think the key is find the right amount of blur or lack of to convey the emotion you are trying to convey.

Roger S

Crazy Canuck
To me, it's all about the falls itself. Depending on the situation, the volume and the intent of the capture, my vision can go either way. I've done some gorgeous shots with freeze action as well as a few milky falls but I shoot both styles so I can choose which one I'm going to use after I get home.